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Ruben Smith cleared of manslaughter after Anthony Armstrong’s death in Folkestone

A teenager accused of fatally punching a man in the street has been cleared of manslaughter.

Ruben Smith, 19, was said to have dealt the first blow which killed Anthony Armstrong in Folkestone.

A floral tribute was placed at the scene of the fatal attack in New Street, Folkestone
A floral tribute was placed at the scene of the fatal attack in New Street, Folkestone

But a jury at Canterbury Crown Court has acquitted Smith mid-trial after a judge ruled he could not be safely convicted.

The prosecution argued Smith, together with Mark Green – who both come from the town – caused Mr Armstrong’s fatal brain injuries.

But as the prosecution’s evidence surfaced it emerged although Smith punched Mr Armstrong first, the victim remained on his feet and relatively unfazed.

Green then “laid into” Mr Armstrong, causing him to fall backwards and suffer fatal brain injuries after hitting his head on the road, the court heard.

The 42-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter before the trial but remains accused of affray.

The trial is taking place at Canterbury Crown Court
The trial is taking place at Canterbury Crown Court

The pair attacked Mr Armstrong after he commented on the length of Smith’s mother’s dress, jurors were told.

Giving evidence, Carley Bishop said she was with Mr Armstrong when the violence unfolded.

She recalled Smith punching Mr Armstrong to the side of the face, then stepping away, before Green “laid into Tony”.

She described Smith’s punch as being comparatively weak, causing Mr Armstrong to drop his shopping bags before Green “just kept punching him”.

Miss Bishop added: “There was just so much blood - he fell back and his head split open.

“The one person who [killed] him was Mark Green,” she told jurors.

“There was just so much blood - he fell back and his head split open...”

Pointing and turning towards Green in the dock, she went on: “You killed him - you should be ashamed of yourself, I’m sorry, I have to tell the truth, Mark.”

The court heard Miss Bishop and Mr Armstrong happened upon Green and his group in New Street during the afternoon of October 6 last year.

The defendants set upon Mr Armstrong after he “politely” told Smith’s mother, Victoria McNally, her underwear was visible due to the length of her dress.

During the attack, Mr Armstrong fell backwards with such force he suffered devastating brain injuries when his head hit the road, jurors heard.

Miss Bishop said during evidence, Ms McNally and Green pulled Mr Armstrong out of the road and tried waking him.

But she claimed when Mr Armstrong would not regain consciousness Green’s group tried convincing her to tell the police he slipped over.

“There were two incidents of violence – the affray was first before the second which resulted in the death of Anthony Armstrong...”

When officers and medics descended on the scene, Green was arrested and Mr Armstrong was conveyed to a specialist hospital.

However, Mr Armstrong died three days later from “severe traumatic brain injury”.

Green, of East Cliff, Folkestone admitted manslaughter earlier this year while Smith, of Foord Road South, also in the town, denied the same charge.

Both men, alongside Kelly Bishop, of Kettle Drive, Hawkinge, also denied one count of affray.

But Smith later admitted the affray charge alongside occasioning actual bodily harm to Mr Armstrong before being cleared of the manslaughter charge yesterday.

The trio are said to have set upon Carley Bishop’s friend outside the Sunflower House food bank in Foord Road minutes before the attack.

“Opening the prosecution’s case last Monday, Eloise Marshall KC, said: “Smith, Green and Bishop committed a vicious, unprovoked street attack on Tristan Hanniford, and within minutes of that attack Smith and Green went on to attack Mr Armstrong.

“And it was that second attack when Mr Armstrong was punched so hard he fell to the ground and suffered a fatal head injury.

“There were two incidents of violence. The affray was first in time about 10 minutes before the second incident of violence, which resulted in the death of Anthony Armstrong.”

Green and Bishop yet to argue their case against the affray charge.

The trial continues.

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